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Concentric Circles of Trauma

A few weeks back, in the lead-up to Veteran’s Day, I was having a conversation with someone in my virtual workplace about how military spouses and families were heroes as well as the actual military member, and we began talking a bit about how far that really extends out. How one person being deployed overseas meant that their spouse was now raising their alone, which required their sibling and parents to help out more with those children, which meant that the sibling’s spouse and kids were now having their cousins spend the night more frequently than they would if both parents were home, and how those kids were being impacted by having their cousins around more, and maybe then having to integrate their cousins into their local friend group, and on and on.

I kept thinking about that pebble dropped in still water and the circles that radiate from it.

Which also made me later consider how much trauma can be the same. Like that one military member who gets deployed, there’s one person who suffers trauma, and then there are all the ways that impact their lives, and the lives of the people around them. When a child is abused, for example, there’s an impact on the parents, and there’s an obvious impact on any siblings that are around as the immediate family adjusts to the needs of a child who has faced the abuse. Then there is the extended family who now might be counted on to help not alone the abused child but support the parents and other kids. Then there are all the other kids who might now be dealing with a friend who has changed and isn’t the same and we can keep counting the circles as abuse may have lasting impacts on adult relationships and the kids this survivor might have. And the thing is like that pebble dropped in the water, the only thing that breaks up those concentric circles is something else hitting the water. Ignoring it doesn’t do much. The circles will keep going for quite a long time. Refusing to acknowledge them because you don’t want to be impacted by them in your own life, does nothing either. They are still there, and they are absolutely impacting your life. You’re making decisions on how to avoid the impacts and that is an impact.

No, the easiest way to break up those circles, as any kid who threw rocks into the water can tell you, is to throw another rock and create new concentric circles starting from a different location.

Gee, in my metaphor about the trauma I wonder what those other rocks could be? Mental health treatment? Care and from family and friends? The elimination of stigma attached to trauma?

How about instead of ignoring the circles we started throwing some more useful rocks and disrupting the cycles of trauma that we see repeated over and over again in those circles?

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